Crying Fire And Not Crying Warnings Of Marauding Mobs

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One of the things that makes members of modern technological society feel as if they are fully in control of their lives is their engagement with the news media.  In particular, there is the easy access to news that comes with the use of various electronic devices.  The radio, the television, the computer and the smartphone.  There is something very unique about receiving the news in a mediated fashion from a speaker or a screen.  A newspaper or a magazine used to be something that was exclusively printed on paper.  Paper is something you can hold, which means that one can have the primary experience of physically holding a newspaper or magazine along with the mediated experience of absorbing the events of the news through the narratives offered in the news stories that one gets through the physical newspapers and magazines.  The physical newspaper or magazine acts as a bridge between two kinds of reality – primary experience and mediated experience – and it allows one to maintain the grounding that one has from being at least partly in the external world when one holds the journalistic conveyor of newsprint or glossy paper that we call a newspaper or a magazine.  By binding together these two kinds of reality, we never totally lose our grounding in the external world, when we go off exploring realms of experience through the newspaper and magazine articles that we read that are not normally a part of our immediate life narrative.

Now as electronically-based reality has increasingly replaced organically based reality as the primary source of engagement within one’s field of experience, one becomes increasingly sucked into the electronically-based reality and separated from the organically-based world of natural phenomena.  And this makes a person increasingly numb and increasingly disoriented.  The one exception to these experiences within electronically based reality is one’s absorption of the news.  When one hears or sees experiences of events, which, when they originally occurred, were organically-based primary experiences, one is approximating as best as one can, a sensory connection to the traditional natural external world.  One is absorbing as best as one can a primary experience that has been converted into a mediated experience.  And this is because the conversion has turned the primary experience into a portable event that one can carry with one as a cognitive memory wherever one decides to go.

But a memory is at best a distant mediated experience and certainly not an immediate primary experience.  So, when one tries to use these mediated experiences as a substitute for the organically-based primary experiences, it doesn’t work in terms of preventing either numbness or disorientation.  So, a person is unable to act upon or respond to these stored events with the same intensity as a primary experience.

There is that old legal problem concerning what to do with a person who falsely yells “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater.   The other patrons don’t know that the cry is a lie.  So, they run for the exit trampling over one another as they do so.  There is nothing mediated about this experience.  Instead, it is an acutely painful flowing blendable continual primary organic experience.  The traditional legal judgment is that, even though the only thing the person did was to shout out some words, he is guilty of causing a terribly disruptive dangerous situation.  The patrons were called upon to respond to that cry as if it were connected to a real potentially catastrophic situation.

Now how are we to appraise an article that says if a certain presidential candidate loses an election that his supporters are going to be so upset that they are going to form marauding mobs and take to the streets to show their anger at the outcome.    In truth, as passions run high, these supporters take to the streets .and form marauding mobs even if they win, in order to show the other side that they’re in control and that the other side better behave or else.

Now what is being written about here is speculative; that is, it is being written about a possible narrative fragment that could happen or maybe not.  This is very different from the fire fragment which refers to something that is happening even as we speak.  With the fire fragment, patrons are stimulated to respond by escaping a catastrophe that doesn’t exist in real life.  With the marauding mobs narrative fragment, listeners and viewers are presented with a possible scenario of a potentially dangerous situation that they are being warned about and that has a high probability of occurring.  But rather than run for the exits (in this case of a country and not of a crowded theater), because the danger is presented as an ephemeral datum from screen and speaker reality, it is not taken as seriously, and citizens of the country are simply not stimulated as intensely to run for the exits.  In the first case, something that does not exist is acted upon as if it exists.  In the second case, something – a potential danger –  that is very likely to exist in the near future, is not acted upon because it is presented to the citizens of the country as an ephemeral datum, a very mediated experience rather than as an immediate experience that grabs a citizen and compels him to respond.  Something to think about.

Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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